Saturday, July 23, 2011

GIVEAWAY: Montessori Curriculum

Are you are an educator or a parent?

If you're interesting in learning more about the Montessori philosophy of teaching and parenting, be sure to enter this awesome giveaway on my other blog, Raccoon School.

It's really easy to enter. The winner will receive a FREE spot in the next training course through World Wide Montessori Online, which starts in September. Along with the training, you will receive 12 albums of curriculum materials (over 5,000 pages of materials)...a $240 value. 

It's a great opportunity to learn about how to incorporate Montessori methods into your home or your curriculum. Good luck!

GIVEAWAY: Montessori CurriculumSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, July 22, 2011

Awesome Recipe for Veggie Burgers & Meatballs

I'm not a big fan of store-bought veggie burgers and meat substitutes. I've been experimenting with homemade recipes for years. I finally found one that I really, really like. So I'm going to share it with you all now.

It doesn't have anything weird in it...just beans, grains, and other yummy ingredients. I've used this recipe to make hamburger patties and meatballs. The meatballs are great with spaghetti sauce or Swedish style (shown below). My kids like them with no sauce. They call them "yummy balls".

It's my new favorite recipe. I found it on the Bob's Red Mill Facebook page (a good site to "like").

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family does!

  • 1 3/4 cups Cannellini Beans (cooked or from can)
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp Basil
  • 1/2 cup Water
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked Hulled Millet
  • 3/4 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs (or gluten free Bread Crumbs)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan Cheese
  • 1/2 tsp Salt
  • 1/2 cup Seasoned Bread Crumbs (or gluten free Bread Crumbs)

Preheat oven to 350°F. In blender or food processor, puree cannellini beans, onion, garlic, basil, and water. Combine with cooked millet (see note), bread crumbs, parmesan cheese, and salt. Let stand 5 to 10 minutes.

Lightly spray cookie sheet. Shape mixture into 1” balls and roll in bread crumbs. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve with marinara if desired. Makes approximately 30 “meat” balls.

NOTE: To cook millet, bring 2 cups water to boil. Add 1/2 cup Hulled Millet and reduce heat to simmer. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until tender.
Awesome Recipe for Veggie Burgers & MeatballsSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

I Haven't Pooed in More Than a Month

Seriously.... I haven't shampooed my hair in more than a month.

You may have heard about this "no-poo" movement. I first heard about it from one of my favorite bloggers, The Thrifty Mama, about a year ago. I've been thinking about trying it ever since, and about a month ago I gave it a whirl.

I've had my ups and downs with it, but I think I'm kinda liking it now. I'm intrigued to find out where this path will lead me.

More than anything, I feel like it's helped me to become more aware of the many false requirements I  place upon myself. The "need creation" model for making money is so pervasive in modern society, we hardly question the necessity of so many products we buy on a regular basis.

Well, I'm asking the question I really need shampoo? And conditioner? And gel? And an assortment of other chemical-laden, plastic-bottled stuff?

Perhaps not. Perhaps by using these products, I am perpetuating a viscous cycle of stripping away natural oils with one product only to be forced to replace them artificially with another.

The first few weeks of going "no poo", my hair was beyond oily. It was crazy oily. I've heard that this kind of "detoxing" phase is common.

Now, a month into this experiment, the oiliness has diminished significantly. I find that using a straight iron and a good hair brush helps keeps the oil from being too abundant.

However, a little extra natural oiliness has actually been nice. A youthful shine has returned to my hair, something I thought was irrevocably lost with age. My hair just feels "healthier".

Amazingly, my hair doesn't feel dirty at all. It doesn't smell bad either. My husband can vouch for that....he says my hair no longer smells like shampoo. It just smells like hair, and it's a good smell. He thinks I should continue, and so do I. Here's why....

  • I love the fact that I'm not spending
    a single penny on hair products.
  • I love the fact that I'm not creating
    any unnecessary packaging waste.

  • Most of all, I love the fact that I'm allowing
    my body to do what it is designed to do naturally.
I Haven't Pooed in More Than a MonthSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Back to the Christmas Tree Farm

We cut our own tree from the Ergle Christmas Tree Farm again this year. It was another fun family experience. That's my husband cutting down the tree and my two sons watching.

Will this become a long-standing family tradition for us? The jury is still out. The tree is not a typical Christmas tree. It is grown in Florida, after all. It's very pretty in it's own way, but the needles are really sticky and tend to fall off easily. Not to mention, they are nearly impossible to vacuum up. It also has kind of an unusual smell.

Sometimes it's difficult to know where to find the balance between tradition, frugality, and eco-friendliness.

Read my post from last year, Our $25 Christmas Tree from Ergle Farm, to find out why we chose to buy a locally-grown Christmas tree, and weigh in with your opinion.

By the way, here's a $2 Coupon for Ergle Farm.
Back to the Christmas Tree FarmSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, October 29, 2010

Reuse and Get Organized (Not Cluttered)

I decided to give some attention to that poor neglected middle child of the 3 R's (reduce, reuse, recycle).

I have been saving some of my best quality jars and food containers over the past months with the intention of one day giving them a thorough cleaning and using them for storage and organizational purposes.

The day finally came, and that part of me that loves organizing things was very, very happy.

Of course, saving too much stuff isn't good. That's why the part of me that loves to be organized and clutter-free is sometimes at war with the part of me that likes to reuse things.

Here are some rules I follow to help me strike an acceptable balance:
    • Be selective. I only save the best-quality containers (usually glass or number 5 plastics) with tight-fitting lids. 
    • What's in this thing, anyway?  Clear containers with no labels are easy to see through and make for better organization.  If the container is not clear, be sure to have an effective way to convey what's inside, like a good label maker.
    • Strive for uniformity. Choose to save containers for products you buy regularly, and build up a stockpile of containers of uniform sizes. This makes for better organization. If the containers stack when empty, all the better.
    • Consider safety.  Different types of plastics are designed for different purposes.  Be sure to think about whether the previous contents are compatible with the future contents, especially in relation to food items.
    • Have a good system for preventing clutter. Some might choose to clean as they go. However, I personally choose to save all my containers in a box marked "plastic containers to be reused for storage."  If my box is overflowing, that's when I know I'm saving too much and my effort to reuse is creating a cluttered mess!
    • You want it clean don't you? Before anything goes in the box, it gets an initial cleaning. When the box is full and I have some time to spend on it, I give everything in the box a more thorough cleaning with hot soapy water and bleach. I use Goo Goneto get rid of the labels. 

     Sometimes I need to remind myself why it's worth the extra trouble to reuse....
    • Save $. When you reuse a container, you don't have to buy new ones for organization. Duh.
    • Reduce trash times two. When you reuse a container, you save it from the recycle bin or landfill (at least temporarily). Even better, you completely avoid generating the trash that would have come from any new containers you might have purchased. 
    Want to know how I used my containers? Check out my post today on Raccoon School called Organizing Homeschool Supplies
      Reuse and Get Organized (Not Cluttered)SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

      Friday, October 8, 2010

      How Sensory Issues Affect My Family

      October is Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) Awareness Month. Did you know that at least 1 in 20 people may be affected by SPD? Chances are, you probably know someone with sensory issues.

      If you're wondering what I mean by "sensory issues" and why it's an important issue for me, check out this article I wrote about my family's experience with sensory processing issues called Coming to My Senses: Awakening to the Sensory Needs of My Sons.

      The first part of this article is being featured today on a blog that is very special to me, Harley's Life with 3 Boys. Hartley is spotlighting a different family's story on each day of this month as part of an effort to raise funds for sensory-related research and education. The stories are really powerful, and are all worth reading! The blog is also a great primer for those who are unfamiliar with SPD.

      Be sure to donate to to the SPD Foundation via Hartley's Life with 3 Boys. If you mention my name in the comments section of your donation form, you might help me win one of Hartley's awesome prizes. Even if you don't mention my name, just donate!!!

      Once you read the first part of our story on Hartley's blog, come back to my other blog, Raccoon School to find out how the story ends. I discuss my concerns for our future, our decision to homeschool, my current feelings toward the developmental specialists, and why I believe more research related to sensory issues is sorely needed.
      How Sensory Issues Affect My FamilySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

      Wednesday, October 6, 2010

      My Kids Were in the Paper this Weekend...Twice!!!

      There are two major newspaper in my area - The Tampa Tribune and The St Peterburg Times - and this weekend my kids were in both! I assure you that I did not know the journalists or bribe them to take our picture. It was just one of those a strange, happy coincidences.

      The first picture was taken on Friday at the Tampa Downtown Market. A photographer started snapping away as my youngest son was putting sweet potatoes into our shopping bag. That image appeared in Saturday's St Petersburg Times.

      Then on Saturday we went back downtown to go to the Veg Fest. This time, a photographer took some pictures of my boys playing in one of the awesome water play areas in Curtis Hixon Park. It was so neat to see the picture in The Tampa Tribune on Sunday - my two special boys behind a beautiful rainbow!

      We all had lots of fun at both the Tampa Downtown Market and the Veg Fest. Getting our picture in the paper was just icing on the cake.

      The funny thing is, when I showed the newspapers to the boys, they just reacted the same way they have to the countless other pictures we've taken of them. No big deal. Me on the other hand...well, I'm proud mother who is easily amused.

      Have a great day everybody!
      My Kids Were in the Paper this Weekend...Twice!!!SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

      Tuesday, October 5, 2010

      Vegetarian Lentil Pot Pie

      This is what we had for dinner last night. It was a perfect meal for cool(er) weather.

      The pie crust is from one one of my favorite cookbook's, Linda McCartney on Tour: Over 200 Meat-Free Dishes from Around the World.I used whole wheat pastry flour to make it a bit healthier.

      The filling was made from a hodgepodge of what I had in the fridge.

      I created a sauce by sauteing mushrooms and onions, adding a dash of wostershire, soy sauce, and flour. Once everything was brown, I added some vegetable stock.

      Then I added carrots, potatoes, sweet peas, and some dry lentils. I added water and let that simmer until the lentils were soft (they only take about 20 minutes).

      Then I added the filling to the pie crust and baked it in the oven until golden brown.

      Want to know how I engaged my oldest son in the preparation of this dinner? Read my latest post on Raccoon School called Flour Sifter.
      Vegetarian Lentil Pot PieSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

      Sunday, October 3, 2010

      Cheap Dirt

      Each time we plant a new vegetable garden our harvests get a little bit bigger.  I know we can do better, though. A lot better.

      I thought about what we needed to change when planting our fall garden, and I realized (if you are a master gardener, this might give you a nice chuckle)......'s all about the soil - duh!

      Here are a few ideas I picked up over the past few weeks about how to to get the quality soil I need without spending a lot of money:

      • Horse Poo. I was shocked to find all the listings for FREE horse manure on craigslist. As tempted as we were (seriously), we were a little worried about having a big pile of poo in our backyard with two young boys running around.
      • Soil by the Truckload. The next best thing we could find to the free horse poo was a $10 truckload of soil from Cypress Creek Landscape Supply. It actually contained some manure and appeared very rich. We borrowed a truck and put our oldest boy to work shoveling soil into the garden (of course, my husband did most of it). It took two truckloads to fill our 4' x 8' garden.
      • Compost. Creating rich soil of your own for FREE is great incentive for saving all those kitchen scraps. Of course, it's also nice to reduce the amount of trash that goes to the landfill. 
      • Half-Off Broken Bags. I've been told (but haven't tried it yet) that you can get bags of soil half-off at Lowes and Home Depot if the bags are broken.
      By the way, a great online resource for organic gardening (and lots of other things) is Mother Earth News.
      Cheap DirtSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

      Friday, October 1, 2010

      Tampa Downtown Market is Back Today

      The Tampa Downtown Market has started up again. Just in time for the beautiful fall weather!

      Every Friday through May from 10AM to 2PM, vendors and musicians gather in Lykes Gaslight Square in downtown Tampa.

      We enjoyed the market last season. I was great to see some positive life going on in downtown Tampa! It's a nice way to get some fresh air with the family. We bought some organic produce at very reasonable prices. We even rode the downtown trolley! We felt very urban on that day.

      By the way, the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market starts October 10. Read about My Experience Experience at the Seminole Heights Sunday Morning Market from last season.


      OCTOBER 1, 2010

      The highlights of our morning:
      • Feshly-Made Plain Donuts
      • Sweet Potato Knish 
      • Sweet Potatoes (79 cents a pound)
      • Fresh pineapple ($2.99 each, peeled and cored) 
      • Free samples of hydroponic green beans & tomatoes
      • Public art and lovely fall(ish) weather  
      We got our picture taken by a reporter. I wonder if we'll be in the  
      St Petersburg Times tomorrow?

      Turns out the answer is "yes". We're on page 3 of the Tampa section! 

      Chock-full of sweet potatoes!
      Fresh and delicious knish.
      I'm a scarecrow

      Tampa Downtown Market is Back TodaySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend